Controversy has erupted in the NRL after the Dragons’ thrilling win over Manly was overshadowed by two divisive late calls.
The Dragons trailed for much of the second half, before snatching a dramatic 12-10 victory at the death on Saturday night.
The Sea Eagles had a shot to score off the final play of the night but were denied when Tim Lafai looked to impede the Manly runner contesting a high kick put up by captain Daly Cherry-Evans.
The Dragons ended up taking a comfortable catch to hang on to the two-point win but Cherry-Evans and his players were left fuming after the final whistle.
The Sea Eagles players were adamant Lafai deliberately walked into the path of the Manly players, insisting they should have been awarded a penalty that could have sent the match into golden point extra time.
Fans agreed, taking to social media after the match to vent their frustrations.
— Wilson Smith (@wilson_smithDT) April 20, 2019
I dislike both sides but that should’ve been a penalty to Manly. #NRLDragonsManly
— B R A D (@bradfogarty95) April 20, 2019
Wow ! That should have been a penalty to Manly that last play! I don’t support either teams but that was a very very bad call from the referee and touchy! These refs are a joke! #NRLDragonsManly
— Mrs.Ash.Fio (@FiorenzaAshley) April 20, 2019
DCE has every right to be filthy there. It’s a 100% penalty #NRLDragonsManly
— Daniel Briggs (@DanielBriggs21) April 20, 2019
so you can block someone from jumping for the ball nice reffing #NRLDragonsManly
— jacob (@spirahs) April 20, 2019
“It was black and white, there an escort, a player taken off the ball,” Cherry-Evans complained to referee David Munro.
“You were willing to make the hard call when game wasn’t on the line but unfortunately that call needed to be made.”
There was also huge drama before the controversial final play of the match when the Dragons were awarded a penalty deep in Sea Eagles territory.
Manly had regathered a Dragons grubber kick but the referees made the unorthodox decision of referring the passage of play back to the Bunker, despite no try being scored.
There were questions about whether Sea Eagles player Brad Parker tripped Dragons centre Euan Aitken as he was attempting to get to the footy first.
Lafai squandered the shot at goal from the penalty the Dragons received for the trip, only for Mikaele Ravalawa to seal the win with a late try.
However, it was Parker’s trip that proved particularly divisive for fans on social media.
Some argued that the Manly man should have been sin-binned for foul play, while others insisted the referees had no right to refer the play to the Bunker in the first place.
So why wasn’t Parker sin binned? Was it not a professional foul? #NRLDragonsManly
— Steve Zemek (@stevezemek) April 20, 2019
— The Duke (@wearl99) April 20, 2019
How does Parker not go to the bin for that trip? Clear professional foul. #NRLDragonsManly
— Mat and Kita Clarke (@KitaandMat) April 20, 2019
Surely a trip should be 10 in the bin? Especially when it’s a try-scoring opportunity. #NRLDragonsManly
— Eden Richards (@Eden_Richards) April 20, 2019
He was never scoring that, so how can they go upstairs?! #NRLDragonsManly
— Clayton Waters (@claytswaters) April 20, 2019
How the hell can they call that back for a no try when there was no act of scoring a try 🤔#NRLDragonsManly
— Gustacious (@Gustacious) April 20, 2019
#NRLDragonsManly How the bloody hell can that be referred to the video Ref whether or not there was an indiscretion!!!!!
— Bearall (@Bearall0211) April 20, 2019
— Paul Johnson (@pjohnson_sports) April 20, 2019
Ben Hunt labelled it a “Barry Crocker of a kick” but it was enough to get St George Illawarra out of a jail with a thrilling 12-10 win over Manly in Wollongong.
After the Dragons trailed 10-8 with three minutes to go, Hunt stepped up when it mattered to save the Saints against the Sea Eagles.
The Queensland State of Origin utility grubber-kicked for chasing winger Ravalawa to cross in the right-hand corner, saving the day for the Dragons.
“It was a Barry Croker of a kick, it got a little bit lucky I think,” Hunt said.
Hunt had earlier also grubber-kicked for the Dragons’ first try, which Matt Dufty ran onto in the 17th minute.
The pair forced three line dropouts between them to control the game in the first half, while on four other occasions they had repeat sets with Manly’s backs unable to handle their kicking game.
Hunt admitted this week he was still hopeful of wearing the Maroons No.7 jersey ahead of Cherry-Evans.
— NRL (@NRL) April 20, 2019
However, the Manly halfback had also been just as good for the Sea Eagles, as he set up one try and scored another.
He hit Brad Parker with a flat ball before the break to cut the deficit to four, before being the beneficiary of a tunnel ball from rookie Corey Waddell to give Manly an unlikely 10-8 lead before Hunt’s late heroics.